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Agony Aunt: Do I Need An SEO Agency Or A Consultant?

November 1, 2019
written by Katherine Collins
Agony Aunt

Which is best: an SEO agency or a consultant? Our agony aunt Kathrine Collins tells all.

TL;DR

  • SEO is an $80 billion industry that can increase conversions and help customers to succeed.
  • But it’s not just technical magic. You need a strategy and the right fit to deliver results.
  • SEO agencies have big talent pools and access to cutting-edge technologies. They can help you grow and scale but can be expensive and push your company into the background.
  • Consultants will always put your business first. But if they’re not the right fit, the whole strategy can come crumbling down.
  • Whichever you choose, ask the right questions and put your goals first.

By 2020, the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) industry will be worth $80 billion. 

That’s an unfathomable amount of money. Ever played that game where you ask how you would spend a million in a lottery win? Well, what would you do with £80 billion?  It’s impossible to think about. And frankly quite depressing compared to my own bank account. Sigh.

The SEO industry is worth this much because it can deliver incredible results. In fact, when done right, SEO can drive conversation rates as high as 14.6%.

Why?

Because whenever we need something, we Google it. This search engine alone handles over 3.5 billion searches every single day.

We want that information instantly. And we’re not prepared to dig for it either. 75% of users won’t even go past the first page of the SERPs.

That’s why SEO is important. To get your business high on that search results page and noticed by your users. So, getting the right SEO people on your side is essential. Which brings us nicely onto today’s question. (It’s almost like that was intentional!).

“Dear Adzooma,

I’m currently looking at bringing new clients into our local tax accountancy firm. We recently did our website and have had some success with PPC campaigns. We’ve even got a content marketing strategy in place and starting to roll out on the blog.

It’s all going well – but our SEO is lacking. Our website isn’t ranking organically and we don’t have anyone on the team that knows the technical details on how to improve this. 

We need to bring this onto the team. But I’m not sure on the best route to take here. Do I need an SEO agency or a consultant? 

Thanks,”

Jeremy

Hey Jeremy,

It sounds like you’ve got things mostly under control there. Well done on that front! 

You’re completely right about the SEO aspect though. It’s an important part of your digital marketing strategy and website that people often underestimate. 

There’s a lot more to it than inputting the ‘technical details’ and waiting to see your rankings skyrocket. SEO needs a full-blown strategy in its own right. It should influence your content and include things like link building and PR. 

It’s a big job. Finding the right person to take it on makes a big difference in your strategy. 

It’s not something that you want to rush into, full steam ahead. So before you do anything, let’s look more closely into the pros and cons of having an SEO agency or a consultant. 

Should you hire an SEO agency?

First, let’s look into the option of an SEO agency. There are plenty of benefits for going down this route.

An agency is stocked with everything you need to deliver a fantastic and well-executed SEO strategy. This includes teams of talented individuals and access to the latest technology.

Because SEO is all they do, agencies are likely to be at the bleeding edge of the industry. They need to know all the latest updates and guidelines – otherwise, their agency will sink deeper than the Titanic.

In some cases, agencies can also use their vast client base to help form strategic partnerships and improve your link building. Some agencies also have a global reach, making it possible to help scale up your company from a local tax accountancy firm to a national chain if that’s what’s in store for you.

Of course, there are downsides. 

You are not an agency’s number one priority. The world doesn’t revolve around you. It revolves around ME. 

Sorry. I get carried away with my own importance sometimes. 

The point is that agencies deal with several clients at a time. Their focus and attention might slip and take the foot of the gas. Sometimes, you will need to prompt them to make sure that they keep your car on the road. 

Although agencies have a pool of talent, there’s nothing keeping them there forever. Staff turnover in agencies can be pretty high, which might mean you’ll be passed between managers. According to a survey by Forbes, more than 30% of agency employees believed they would be working someplace other than their current company inside of 12 months.

And last but not least, agencies can be pretty pricey. You’re paying for employee time, technology and a lot of overhead. That bill quickly racks up. Worse still, some agencies might try to lock you into expensive contracts you can’t escape. 

For some businesses, agencies just aren’t worth the price tag. Finding an affordable SEO agency is a pretty rare thing indeed.

PROS CONS
Access to the agency’s leading talent and technology  Have a high cost to work with them
At the bleeding edge of the industry and up-to-date  You’re not the agency’s sole client and work can be pushed back
Potential global reach on offer and impressive partnerships High staff turnover means you’re always changing hands

Should you hire an SEO consultant? 

Now you’ve got an overview of the agency, let’s talk about SEO consultants. 

Rather than getting an entire company to work alongside you, a consultant lets you hire out the expertise of one particular person without having to hire them as a full-time member of your business. 

Excellent. 

Unlike an agency, a consultant will give you time that’s completely focused and dedicated to you. There’s no multi-tasking or being pushed to the bottom of the list. Your time is yours alone. 

If you’re working with any other marketing agency or other companies, consultants can also help you bridge the gap and ensure that your SEO strategy is correctly implemented across all areas of your business. 

The downsides?

Great consultants can be difficult to find. Because there’s a single point of failure, there’s a lot more riding on getting the right match for your business. If they’re not right, the whole thing falls apart. Yikes. 

There’s just a single point of failure after all. 

PROS CONS
Fully dedicated to your company and works closely with you Might be using out-dated strategies or technology
Can bridge the gap between any external agencies There’s one point of failure for your SEO strategy
Get expertise without hiring a full-time staff member  Difficult to find great consultants for your business

What questions should you ask before you hire?

Making the decision between an SEO agency and a consultant is one stage. You’ve still got to find the right one for your business. 

Yes, this is a lot of work. But making the wrong decision will be disastrous, Jeremy. 

Before you rush into anything, ask them these questions first. It will help get a better insight into whether they’re right for your company or not. 

What questions should you ask before you hire an agency or consultant?

1. How much do they cost? 

Straight to the point, but this is an important one to ask. 

If they don’t fit into your budget, don’t work for them. That’s it. Problem solved. 

Right, swiftly moving on. 

2. What services do they offer?

This is where you find out exactly what an agency or consultant can provide you. It’s a pretty important question. You don’t want to assume they’ll do everything if they’re only offering a very specific SEO strategy. 

So, talk to them about your goals. Tell them what you want to achieve and see how they intend to get you there. 

Just be wary of any ‘guaranteed packages’ or plans that promise a certain amount of links. They sound nice but they don’t work. They’re more akin to black hat SEO, which if you’re not familiar, is a no-no.

This is basically where you use rather distasteful methods to get your website ranking higher. But, if the search engines find out, they can have you banned. 

Avoid at all costs.

3. What are their qualifications?

Just like you would do for any interview, you need to to find out if they’re qualified and capable of handling the work. 

So, ask for their qualifications and previous experience. The power is in your hands, so make them prove to you that they are worth hiring.  The most important qualification to look out for is a successful experience working with companies just like yours. Which brings us to the next question. 

4. Can they give you case studies of past work? 

Case studies are physical proof that the agency or consultant is able to deliver exactly what they promise. 

Just make sure that the case studies are similar to your industry and business size. If they turned around and presented a fantastic story of how they increased M&S’s organic rankings by 2000% – that’s great! 

But as a local accountancy firm, it’s not really that relevant. 

Ask for case studies that prove how they deliver success for companies like yours. 

5. How will they communicate? 

You also need to work out some of the more nitty-gritty details before you commit. 

How often are you going to hear from them and how will they communicate with you? It could be by phone, email, or face-to-face with regular meetings. Not every method works for everybody so it’s important to outline what works best for you and if it’s possible. 

If you’re looking at a consultant, will they physically come into your office to work or be a remote worker? 

This doesn’t include the physical way that they communicate either but should outline exactly how often you get results and how they intend to measure success. You don’t want to be blindly paying for SEO work with no idea if it’s even working. 

Find out the details so there’s no surprises or disappointments down the line. 

Campaign conversion rate up to 14.6% with SEO

Consider your goals to pick the right solution

When finding the right SEO option, figuring out your goals is the first step. 

Once you know this, take a look at the pros and cons of hiring an agency versus a consultant and decide which is the best move to help you with your goals.

Then, sit down with them. Spend the time making your goals clear and getting to know them better. Figure out if they’re the right match to help you achieve your goals. If they are, fantastic. If not, keep looking.

That’s how you find the best SEO solution.

All the best, 

Katherine.

Author
Katherine Collins

I am the guru of all things online advertising, giving advice from my home that I share with my two cats, Moon and Dustie. When not online, you can find me tending to my lucrative garden, reading up about space travel or relaxing with a glass of wine.
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